Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Is Peter Wallace for real? (and does it matter?)

Over the past few days I've had a couple of encounters on twitter, as have others, with a Peter Wallace, from New South Wales. 

He tweets as @PeterWallaceAU. According to his twitter bio: 
Leader, Australian Conservative Party. Candidate for federal senate (NSW), advocating major democratic reform, ex NSW Police
He came to my attention by tweeting an anti-LGBT anti-Marriage-equality stance and for being against the Safe Schools program - which has the goal of eliminating the bullying of LGBT kids in Australian schools. Peter claims to be only an aspiring politician, however this program was attacked by actual members of the current government. Conservative, Christian, homophobic members of the current government, obviously. The program was investigated and is now going to be wound back, before being defunded*. 

But back to Peter. It's hard to find anything of Peter Wallace or his political party online. 

Searching his name brings up few results. He (or someone with his name) was written about in The Red and The Blue blog, back in September 2015. Then nothing until his recent series of tweets. There is a Facebook page for the Australian Conservative Party, but there is no activity on it. 

He claims to be running for the Senate in the upcoming federal election, but he is not yet listed as a candidate.

I know, however, there's still a long way to go before the election. 

He claims to be the leader of the Australian Conservative Party. But a check of the Australian Electoral Commission website shows that there is no party registered with that name. Again, it's a long time before the election but if you were about to campaign in a federal election, you'd think you'd register your political party. They seem to have an official banner/logo...

So why not actually register the party? 

I have had a look online with a twitter friend, Chris in D.C. (@653toMidnight) and there's nothing to be found of this aspiring politician's career. 

Where are the meetings, where are photos of him being out and about, on the hustings, as they say? The only photo we can find of this Peter Wallace looks suspiciously stock (as does the photo of someone who seems to be a major supporter on twitter). Having said that, a politician having a professional headshot as their profile picture is nothing unusual. A would-be politician having that as their *only* available photo...raises suspicions. 

I argued with Peter a few days ago over his anti-LGBT stance. Today he's come to more prominence after tweeting this: 

He made it to a News.com.au article. And, at the time of writing, is trending on twitter in my part of the world. 

Whether legitimate or "Poe" this is surely mission accomplished. Well perhaps not accomplished, but it would certainly be a checkpoint along the way to achieving whatever mission it is Peter (or whatever his name is) is hoping to achieve. 

If it turns out the Peter is a Poe/Troll then I'm sure we've all got a revelation waiting for us, when the person behind Peter Wallace comes out to reveal that we all fell for it. 

And sure, he or she will be right, I initially fell for it. But here's the problem - there are people (including some currently in parliament) who legitimately believe this anti-LGBT stuff that Peter is espousing. This will be a perfect example of Poe's Law. 

But that's not the real problem with what Peter's doing, whether legitimately or not. 

The real problem with what Peter is doing is the high rates of suicide among LGBT kids (and adults). The real problem with what Peter is doing is the oppression, hated and bigotry experienced by LGBT kids and his adding of fuel to this most disgusting of fires. 

Peter is trying to legitimise this false idea that LGBT kids are flawed, that same-sex couples aren't good enough to marry, and aren't good enough to be parents. 

Peter Wallace, real or fake, is adding to the stigma that leads LGBT people to kill themselves. 

I'm not sure if Peter believes this ignorant, disgusting, backwards attitude he's promoting. I'm not sure if, because of our previous conversations, I'll one day be listed amongst the people he 'fooled' into believing him. 

What I am sure of, though, is that Peter is harmful. I am sure that the ideas he's promoting are dangerous, and regressive. 

I am sure that this is an abhorrent thing he's doing, whether he's doing it for real, or as a joke. 

I'm not sure which is worse. 


Special thanks to Chris in D.C. (@653toMidnight) for inspiring this blog by asking if Peter Wallace was for real and helped look up info on Peter. 

*at the time of writing the Victorian and ACT governments have said they will continue to fund the Safe Schools program with state money. 

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

For religious reasons

I saw a tweet from Ibtihaj Muhammad, who is a member of the USA fencing world team, according to her twitter bio. Not being much into fencing, I can't say I'd heard of her before. (She's Rio bound in 2016, is seems. Good luck to her!)

Ibtihaj had an issue with being asked to remove her hijab to receive her ID badge at an event (from what I can find out, a music festival). 

From what I've read since, it seems that the organisers of the event had no requirement for her to remove her headscarf and that security was overstepping the mark in requesting her to do so.  

What I found interesting was Ibtihaj's subsequent tweet which said 

'Even after I explained it was for religious reasons...' Why does that make a difference? Why should someone be allowed an exception just because of what they believe to be true? Even if it's a sincerely held belief. 

Of course I think people should be entitled to believe whatever they like, my question is, at what point do I stop being obliged to accommodate it? 

At what point can an event organiser say 'we don't allow any head-ware on our ID badges' and expect everyone to comply? 

What if we say we accommodate anything that doesn't cause harm or negatively impact others? @megcl0ud on twitter put it as accommodating: cases of non-violent, non-threatening personal convictions. 

Off the bat, this sounds fair enough. 

Question one, for me is, how to you measure a personal conviction? There is the well known case of Niko Alm, an Austrian atheist who, back in 2011, won the right to wear a pasta strainer in his driving license photograph, due to claiming to be a member of the church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I don't think anyone for a moment believes Niko genuinely believes in the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but he forced the court's hand and argued successfully. 

The organisers of Wimbledon have a rule that anyone competing in the tournament must be wearing predominately white. 

Thought experiment: What if a tennis player belongs to a religion that demands they only ever wear pink? If we're allowing things 'for religious reasons' do we give this person an exemption? If we follow the 'non-violent, non-threatening personal conviction' suggestion, then yes, we should accommodate someone wearing pink. 

Seems it would be the kind thing to do. 

What if someone else has a religion that demands the only wear blue. And someone else is red. Green. Suddenly we've got no one wearing white, and no two people wearing the same colours. 

What then happens to the rules at Wimbledon? Are they not entitled to run an event where everyone wears white? Wearing white is non-threatening, non-violent action. Wimbledon organisers might have a personal conviction that their tennis tournament be held in white. Why should they be forced to give up their conviction for the conviction of someone else? 

Well, I don't think they should. It's a private event. They should be allowed to say 'you play wearing white, or you don't play'. They're not banning people for who they are. They're not saying a woman can't play because of her sexual orientation. They're not saying a black man can't compete because of the colour of his skin. They're saying if you want to play in this tournament, you have to wear white. And they should be allowed to. 

Just as a bank should be allowed to say that you can't enter if your face is covered. Regardless of what you're covering it with, or why you're covering it. 

Just as a restaurant should be allowed to say we serve only meat dishes and if you choose to be a vegan, you can find somewhere else to eat. 

This is not discrimination based on who someone is, this is having the right to not have to accommodate every choice someone makes. It might be that a restaurant suffers from not having vegan options on the menu. So be it. That's a commercial decision. I don't eat seafood, but I'm not about to force a seafood restaurant to serve a meal I would like. I'll just go eat elsewhere. 

If your choice of religion prevents you from doing something because you don't want rules that apply to everyone else, to apply to you, then it's *you* that should be finding the alternative. 

It's not that I'm against being kind or accommodating people. It's about where to draw the line. I had a long discussion on twitter with @megcl0ud  and @idiocyalert. They agreed 'for religious reasons' was not enough. It has to be, at least 'for religious reasons*' I just thing you can remove the 'for religious reason' and make the * secular. 

You allow head-ware (hats, sunnies, a Red Sox cap) or you don't. Simple. 

I'm sure there are many hijab-wearing Muslim women have thought or even asked to not be treated differently because of their religion. 

This would probably be so much easier if people stopped asking to be treated differently just because of their religion.  

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Walking Through Thunderstorms - A novel.

Since reading Stephen King's The Tommyknockers when I was about 14 or 15 I've fancied being a writer. That book lit a spark in me that I wanted to explore further. This was about 1987.

I wrote a few horror short stories and showed them to a few friends but nothing that was ever novel worthy. 

In 1999 Australian author Nick Earls was interviewed on radio station Triple J. As part of the interview he read a passage from his book '48 Shades of Brown'. I thought it was great so bought a copy of the book as soon as I could, read it, and loved it. I've since bought, and read everything from Nick Earls that I can get my hands on. 

I emailed Nick after I had finished 48 Shades of Brown to tell him how much I liked it. He responded with thanks. After reading Nick's books I realised horror was not my go, as far as writing was concerned but maybe something more Nick's style would suite me. 

Nick's style is very casual, very laid back, and very Australian. Most of his books are set in the suburbs of his home city, Brisbane. They're extremely funny and are 'slice of life' style books. What I like a lot is that he doesn't follow formulas. You know how *every* romantic comedy they get together, have a great time, something goes wrong, they fight, separate, and realise they should have been together all along? That kind of thing. Nick does away with that. 

I adopted this style for myself. 

I'd started many stories but couldn't get them through to novel length. They always ran out of steam. I wrote a scene in a restaurant. Group of friends, night out. I liked it and then wondered about a particular couple and how they got there. 

From that thought, Walking Through Thunderstorms was born. 

I wrote lots of it long hand, on the train, and at lunchtime at work. Then someone I worked with lent me a laptop and I wrote on that for a day. It was an old laptop and I typed faster than the cursor moved. It wasn't useful. Eventually I got a better laptop and was able to write the rest of it on that. 

I looked for an editor but they were expensive. $5,000+. I couldn't justify that. I found one who offered to edit a chapter for about $200. I agreed.  She then asked if I'd allow her to use it in a writing class she was holding. I agreed, as long as I could get feedback. 

The feedback was mixed but one person stood out. She said 'I liked it. It was quirky and different and I wanted to read more'. Her name was Susan. I asked the editor to put me in contact with Susan, which she did, and though we've drifted apart now, we were friends for a long time. I helped Susan with her editing website and she gave me more tips on my book. She's now a published author herself. 

I met Nick Earls at a book signing in Melbourne. I told him that Stephen King and inspired me to write, and he, Nick, has shown me how I wanted to do it. We talked for a bit and I mentioned my novel. He put me in contact with his literary agent. 

I sent her my book, as I had to many others. She thanked me for it, said I was a good writer, but it wasn't something she wanted to go forward with. Fair enough. 

My uncle and I printed out 22 copies of Walking Through Thunderstorms. We folded the pages by hand, bound them, and glued covers on - which my uncle had printed out in full colour. Our only concession to not 'hand made' was that he got the edges trimmed. No matter how careful we were, it wasn't possible to fold the pages perfectly. I handed them out to family and friends for Christmas. 

A few years later I found out about Lulu. A self-publishing (or vanity publishing) website. I thought, you know what, it would be cool to have a hardback version of my book. So I formatted and uploaded files, and printed out 5. I kept one, gave the rest away. 

I've sent PDF versions to a few people I've met online. Some have liked it, some haven't. But that's the case with any book. I don't expect everyone to like it. 

Recently I remembered Lulu and I thought maybe I'd put it up there so people who followed me online could read it, if they wanted. I tweeted the idea and there was support so I did it. 

A review went up before anyone (apart from my partner) knew it was there or had bought it. I don't know who that person was or how she could have read it without buying it. It wasn't favourable. 

Given my partner was the first person to buy it, and first read it about 5 years ago, my partner submitted her review. When I initially sent my novel to her she wasn't my partner. We hadn't known each other too long. She read it in a day. She liked it. 

After she'd bought the book from Lulu, my partner told me she wanted to put a review up on Lulu but was struggling with the wording. I said I shouldn't tell her what to say, that wouldn't be right. She agreed. I said if someone asked you what you thought, what would you tell them? Just write that. She did. 

Then another review went up, claiming to be from someone who knows and likes me through twitter. Maybe, maybe not. Again, it wasn't favourable. Also again, that's okay. I don't expect everyone to like it. I don't expect anyone to like it. 

But there were a couple of things in the review which I thought were out of line. They said it was unfair of me to sell the book. Actually 'disastrously unfair'. Claiming it was 'on par with the snake oil salesmen we jeer at on Twitter (side note - I don't jeer at anyone). Okay, you don't like it, but saying it's unfair for me to sell it, because YOU don't like it, is silly. I've bought published, edited, printed books that I haven't liked. I'm not about to tell the author they shouldn't be selling it.  

This person also highlighted that it's an amateur attempt at writing by an amateur writer. 

Ummm, yeah. It is! I've not hidden the fact that it's a 10 year old novel that is unpublished that I put up on Lulu *myself*. If you were expecting anything other than an amateur novel...you might be a fucking idiot. 

But the thing that angered me was the accusation that the review from my partner was a 'false positive'. No. Just no. I have more integrity than that, thank you very much. If I wanted a false positive, why the fuck would I have my partner write one under *her own name*. (something she did, unlike this person who, I think cowardly, posted anonymously). 

My partner's review was honest, and her own doing, and written in her own words, which were not all all influenced by me. The accusation that she lied is unfounded, as is the assumption that just because YOU didn't like it, no one else could. 

To avoid others thinking the review was a false positive, I tried to take it down, but I couldn't, I could only remove them all. So I did.

So let me be clear...I'm not forcing anyone to buy it. It's an unpublished (and not professionally edited) novel that I wrote many years ago. I'm putting it up...just because I can. I'm not claiming it's great. Or even good. I'm proud of my effort. People like it. If you don't...okay, you don't have to. You don't have to buy it. Thinking it's anything other than amateur makes you a fool. Telling me I shouldn't be selling it because YOU don't like it, makes you sound silly to me, anonymously telling me my partner lied about her review, makes you a dick. 

If you do want to buy it (and I stress, you don't have to, this is *voluntary*) you can do so here: 



*the paperback is a little more expensive than I'd like but, unfortunately, the manufacturing costs are quite high. The eBook is less than my morning coffee and I'm happy with that.